Void Rally 10: Lights, Camera – ACTION!

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, the Void Rally had to walk in to mine.

The curtain opened on the 10th running of the Void Rally with a movie and television theme. With my 4th Void now in the bag, I think it’s safe to say that I’m hooked. Each year I look forward to October so that I can ride in my most favorite-est rally in the entire universe.Thanks for getting me addicted, Catfish. Thanks a lot.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you – The Void Rally 10.

In the week leading up to the rally, I’d put myself through a round of craziness. That isn’t anything new. But early on I was especially confuzzled by the sheer number of bonus locations we’d received. There were over 300 of those little suckers to choose from. And so, true to form, I acted as my own worst enemy and made things harder than they need be.

What was I supposed to do?

  • Ride
  • Look at stuff
  • Have fun
  • Don’t DNF

Thems me rules, buddy.

With them in mind, I decided I needed to come at my route with a new approach.

Step one: calm the hell down.
Step two: See step one.

Thankfully, Aunt Mildred was around to talk me off the ledge. In the end my route really wasn’t very difficult at all. As a matter of fact, it was rather laid back and as it turned out – I’d never taken such a long rest bonus before! Approaching the bonus listing methodically helped me turn the corner. Sometimes we just have to suffer through being our own worst enemies.

Places, everyone. Places!

My starting city was State College, Pennsylvania. On rally-eve, the Pa. starters met for dinner. Not only did I make some new friends, but also I got to share time with some people I may only see once a year. That’s something I always look forward to. There must be something to this experience that cements your kinship but I’m not exactly sure what. Perhaps there’s something to the idea that your time together is so fleeting that you always leave wanting one more conversation. Or maybe it’s just me?

Annnnnd…. ACTION

Sort of.

Void Rally 10 kicked off for me around 8:25 on Friday morning. The usual routine was in play. During a specified time-window, get a time stamped receipt from your starting city then notify the rallymaster that you are underway. With a good receipt extracted from a gas pump, I stood fumbling with my phone. I was having trouble sending a start text to the rallymaster. That number does not exists. I repeated the incorrect process 3 times (3!) because I was using the wrong number. I finally dug out my rallybook to find the correct number and sent in a good text. Whew!

See Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Then just like that, we were off. Riders scattered to the four winds.

Leaving State College and heading south down I-99, it felt like anything was possible. No nerves, no apprehension, just wondering what would be coming my way. Looking out over the land, the leaves on the trees had begun to change. Across the hills, reds, golds and greens rolled away to that edge of where everything blends together in your eyes. A slight fog clung tightly to the ground making the world look like I was riding through a railroad model.

It’s funny but when doing a rally even though you’re focused on achieving the goal at hand there are other aspects of the ride that capture your imagination. At it’s heart, it is after all just riding. The time in between bonuses is filled with moments of wonder and appreciation of the sights you’re seeing. There may even be some boredom sprinkled in when you’re eating up miles of slab. That’s all part of the greater experience. Forced sightseeing.

Lets Get Some Bonus Points, Shall We?

And the award for first bonus stop goes to…

The Bedford Coffee Pot! ::applause::

I know, I know, it’s a re-run. I was just there in July! But thanks to a bonus called Improv, riders could select anything that might be a good bonus location in the future. Since it was on my natural route the coffee pot was a no-brainer.

Plus, it allowed me time to get the Fart bonus while I was standing around.

I’ll take FART for 150 points, Alex. Some bonuses are best achieved alone.

For the Trading Places bonus – a nod to the movie of the same name – riders were to take a photo at a bonus stop using someone else’s rally flag. The catch being that it could not be the first nor last bonus location on your route. That was a wrench thrown in the works because you had to hope that you’d bump in to another rider somewhere along the way versus doing it right as you left your start city or before you found yourself at Rally HQ.

As luck would have it, I happened to run into another rider while heading down in to West Virginia. As I pulled up to a traffic light, I saw rider 76 picking up the Goldmember bonus at a pawn shop. Not only did I get the pawn shop bonus but I was able to trade flags for that bonus, too. Five hundred points, thank you very much.

Now, I don’t want to call anyone out (Gregg!) but… if you flag with one person, it’s just rude to go sharing your flag willy-nilly with any other Tom, Dick and Harry that comes along. Especially on the same night! I guess I was mistaken in thinking that when 76 and I flagged it was special, that it meant something. But I was just one of several riders he would flag with that night. Dirty, dirty flag boy.

Who hasn’t felt like a wreck at the Fat Nancy now and then?

I was sad to discover that the gorilla holding an airplane was no longer standing outside of the Pink Cadillac Diner in Natural Bridge, Virginia. It was the reason that I picked the stop. Yes, the pink car was cool, but… gorilla…. ::weeps::

Is it just me or does the diner seem like it’s staring at you? 😐

The pink Caddie marked the southern-most point of my route. From there I would circle northwest towards Ohio. My plan was to take my rest stop in Cambridge around 10:45pm. The only thing that stood between me and my gloriously long rest was two more bonuses. The downside? They were both far away. In my planning I’d broken the deal I’d made with myself to try to not exceed 150 miles between stops. That’s when my fun stick starts going limp. (I don’t really have a fun stick. Work with me.)

Riding north into West Virginia on I-77, I watched a rain storm roll into the valley I was approaching. The menacing clouds taunted me “Oh, that’s cute. You didn’t think it was going to rain during the Void? Nice try, cupcake.”

With nothing to do and nowhere to hide, I rode underneath the darkening clouds. Soon a frog-choking rain came down in buckets. The only option was to keep on keepin’ on since I still had a long way to go before my next stop – Tornado, WV. Based on the way the clouds were looking I was praying that the town wouldn’t live up to its name.

I never did get to find out what was doing in the town of Tornado. The tiny road in was blocked off by an SUV on its roof when I came around a dark, wet corner. The police hadn’t even arrived yet. Everyone was out of the car and okay but I took it as a sign that maybe I didn’t need to go anything further. I immediately turned around and got back on the road towards Ohio.

At around 10pm, I picked up my last Friday bonus – The Hopalong Cassidy Museum in Cambridge, Ohio. At 1,000 points it was my biggest single bonus up to that point. During the pre-rally dinner I’d heard someone mention that this bonus was too far out-of-the-way to be worth it. My heart sank a little when I’d heard that but I decided to leave my route as-is. I don’t know why I’m not confident in my routing abilities.

With Hopalong Cassidy in the bag (that sounds weird) I was free to sleep! I had a glorious 8-hour block set aside for myself at a Holiday Inn Express. Nighty-night, Y’all!

Rise and Shine

Though I don’t recall falling asleep, my iPhone started it’s annoying buzz at 5:00am. It was time to pack up my circus and get back on the road.

When I left my rest bonus, I immediately went back over to the Hopalong Cassidy Museum to pick up the SEQ bonus. This was a “sequel,” meaning that riders could re-visit a bonus they’d been to earlier in the rally. In addition? Double the point value the original bonus. The catch for sequel was that 8-hours had to pass between visits before you could claim the same bonus again, hence my super-long rest. Well rested and 2,000 points? Yes, please and thank you.

From my rest bonus in Ohio to the rally finish in Virginia the GPS put me on I-40 for a short stretch. Well, actually I may have missed my intended turn but let’s just say it was a serendipitous mistake. There were no streetlights and no traffic on the road. It was just me, the hum of my Tiger and my lights burning down the roadway.

The sky was black. I’m sure it’s hard for some people to imagine that seeing stars is special. After all, they’re there every night – day in, day out for all eternity. But, where I live a truly dark sky is something that I’m not accustomed to. I was transfixed. The sky was peppered with scattered diamonds. And the waning moon, like a big sleepy eye that could barely stay open, hung in a mere sliver. Tired from being up all night it laid heavy at the bottom of its circle. Goodnight moon.

My Favorite Bonus

As a Pa. Lincoln Highway-lover, the mural in Stoyestown was my favorite sight during the rally. What a great looking piece. Sure the dude on the gas pump looks like he had his face rearranged with a brick and he’s wearing a lasagna cravat but that’s part of what makes it special.

Following the mural, I had a few more odds and ends to pick up before arriving back at rally end. Watching the time on the clock get closer to synching up with the estimated time of arrival at the rally hotel, puts me on the emotional rollercoaster. It’s a strange mix of triumph, excitement and melancholy. You wait and wonder and work for something… and then it’s over. But? There’s beer at the end.

And the Oscar goes to…

I’d like to thank my fellow nominees and the academy. I just can’t believe I received a 7th place best supporting actress for my performance. You like me. You realllly like me.
::sobs, wipes nose::

Not too shabby for someone who still has no idea what they’re doing.

Thank You, Rallymasters and Staff

A huge thank you goes out to the rallymasters, Scott and Gary. They do an amazing job of handing a three-ring circus. Along with their small army of volunteers and scouts, year after year they bring something challenging and fun to their riders. It’s not the fame and fortune. No, they do it for you, the rider, to have fun. Some serious ass-kissing is in order.

It isn’t often that you can say that you look forward to reading the instructions for something. But the rallybook for the Void has become something special. Each year I find myself anxious to see what they’ve got in store for us. Beyond just telling you to go from point A to point B, the rallybook is funny, interesting and may in fact teach you something you didn’t know. Or maybe didn’t want to know. It’s a masterpiece for which the hard work and effort doesn’t go unnoticed.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

See ya next year!


Lessons Learned:

For a 24-hour (31 with rest) rally, I try to keep my mileage at around 1,100-ish miles or less. That seems like a realistic goal for me, based on past performance. It leaves me with a cushion to make mistakes, be tired, get stuck in traffic, stop and eat, and have a meltdown on the side of the road before continuing on.

Always look for ways to pick up the most amount of points with the least amount of effort.

While planning in Basecamp, I pad every single bonus location with a 10 minute layover. In reality, I don’t take 10 minutes per stop, but the universe seems to balance things out while I’m underway.

I load my non-location bonuses in as a waypoints on my route. If there is a particular time window for a non-location based bonus, I will drop a pin somewhere close to the area I think I’ll be passing through during the time requirement.

When I settle on a route, I number my stops in my GPS sequentially. It is just one more reminder that there is something that I need to do. Then I can navigate from point to point.

My GPS’s Void favorites would be listed like:

*1_Stop One
*2_ Stop Two
*3_Stop Three

My index card notes once again helped me keep track of things while at bonus locations. When I finally settled on a route, I wrote each bonus location on a card along with my estimated time of arrival and notes that I needed to pay attention to. I keep the cards in the window of my tank bag where I can simply glance at them. Then once I satisfy the bonus, I flip to the next card and move on. This system seems to help with that feeling of information overload. Nothing but the bonus at hand matters.

I thought I made a mistake taking a photograph of the wrong bowling alley sign in Berkley Springs, WV. While standing at the Wreck of the Fat Nancy HHM, I contemplated deleting the photo from my camera. At the last-minute my sanity prevailed and I decided to leave it be, opting to let my scorer handle things.

Wouldn’t you know? I didn’t make a mistake. The photo was good and I would have docked myself 250 points for nothing. The lesson here? Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Let the scorer do it.

Free Points

Once you receive it, read the whole rallybook. Every page. When you’re done reading it, go back and read it again. There might be opportunities sprinkled within that will allow you to get points for doing very little. When the rallymaster offers “free” points for doing a simple task like sending a text message, you should take a closer look doing it. It’s like being paid for putting your feet up on the desk at work.

This year’s Void offered extra points for taking a long rest bonus. The regular rest is a required 3-hour stop during which time you have to stay put and cannot collect any bonus points. This year 3 additional hours could be taken with an 1,800 point value. A six-hour rest? Yes, please! Knowing that I could not collect 1,800 points in 3 hours of riding based on my route it would have been ridiculous NOT to take it.

Paperwork – The Silent Killer of Dreams

As riders began to trickle in to the finishing area and went through scoring, it was very interesting to once again find very capable, strong competitors undermined by their own paperwork. Issues like transposing numbers, failing to claim combo bonuses, not adding a notation on the bonus log, forgetting odometer readings on receipts – very simple tasks that trip riders up. Fatigue will conspire against you.

My Bonus Stop List:

  • Improv Bonus – The Bedford Coffee Pot
  • The Fart Bonus
  • Trading Places
  • Austin Powers Goldmember
  • Berkley Springs Bowlerama – Big Lebowski
  • You’ve Got Mail – Text in Bonus
  • Trains, Planes and Automobiles (Plane)
  • Trains, Planes and Automobiles (Train)
  • Trains, Planes and Automobiles (Automobile)
  • Trains, Plains and Automobiles Combo Bonus
  • Pink Cadillac Diner
  • Thunder Alley – Big Lebowski
  • Hopalong Cassidy Museum
  • Rest Bonus (8 hours!)
  • Sequel Bonus – Hopalong Cassidy Museum
  • Last Man Standing – Cabelas
  • Alpine Bowling Club – Big Lebowski
  • Coming to America
  • Trains, Planes and Automobiles (Automobile)
  • Badges?! – Selfie Bonus
  • Trains, Planes and Automobiles (Plane)
  • Trains, Planes and Automobiles (Train)
  • Trains, Plains and Automobiles Combo Bonus
  • Home Improvement – Lowes
  • VOID Rally Sticker Bonus

Assorted Stats

Mileage: 1109
Points: 44,542
Points per Mile: 40.16
Rest Bonus Length: 8 Hours
Bonuses Claimed: 26
Bonuses Dropped from Original Route: 1
Points Lost at Scoring: 0
Banana Cars Spotted: 1
Beers Drank Post-Rally: Too Many
New Friends: Lots
Happy Fuzzys? One

–photogallery rem’d

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